Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo have reportedly signed extensions with the Thunder–totaling $184 million over four years–ahead of the October 31st rookie extension deadline. Adams’ will earn $100 million over four years, while Oladipo will net $84 million.
According to ESPN’s Royce Young, the Thunder were also in talks with Andre Roberson about an extension as well, but the midnight deadline has now passed, and Roberson will become a restricted free agent in the summer. This means that any team will be able to sign Roberson to an offer sheet, but the Thunder will have the right to match it.
Adams will earn about $22.5 million next season, and Oladipo will make $18.8 million. Combined with the Thunder’s guaranteed contract total for next year ($65.2 million), this puts the Thunder’s payroll at $106.5 million–and that’s excluding deals for Andre Roberson, Ersan Ilyasova, Nick Collison, or Anthony Morrow.
Translation: there will not be enough cap room to bring a superstar to Oklahoma City unless some serious cap wizardry occurs. The salary cap is projected at $102 million for next season, and OKC’s payroll will be over $110 million if the Thunder match an Andre Roberson offer sheet.
The Thunder’s highest priority should be to pair an elite running mate with Russell Westbrook, so how do deals like this make sense?
Well, they severely hamper OKC’s ability to bring in a superstar like Blake Griffin. Without a lot of salary shuffling, it simply isn’t possible. However, Griffin to Oklahoma City was something of a pipe dream to begin with: he’s as Hollywood as it gets.
Instead of relying on a wildly unpredictable free agency period, Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo were paid for their considerable upside. Consider this investment a vote of confidence in their future. Sam Presti and the rest of the Thunder front office have also traditionally been eager to extend rookie contracts rather than risk them getting overpaid in the open market.
And besides, these extensions intersect with the prime of their careers. Barring a total meltdown from either player, both contracts are quite tradable if need be. In fact, that may be Oklahoma City’s best avenue to acquiring a superstar.
Based on last year’s free agency, Oladipo could easily fetch a max offer sheet as a restricted free agent next summer, and the Thunder would be cuffed: OKC would be forced to overpay or miss out entirely. It’s the same scenario in which the Thunder were forced to overpay to keep Enes Kanter. The Thunder can’t just spend that money on another free agent.
Instead, ‘Dipo’s deal is about $22 million less than a max contract. Adams’ deal comes in $6 million below the max.
Simply put: the fact that the Thunder inked Oladipo and Adams early and under the market value is nothing short of a coup. It’s a great move from a front office that has been polarizing (to say the least) in its financial decisions in the past.
A similar situation changed the landscape of the NBA just four years ago. When James Harden balked at a four year, $55 million rookie extension from the Thunder, Presti opted against letting him become a restricted free agent, instead shipping him to Houston for Kevin Martin and the draft pick that would eventually become (funnily enough) Steven Adams. Bill Simmons still won’t let us hear the end of it.
One last thought on the deals: It may seem like an obvious overpay, but it’s what the market has dictated. It can’t be said enough. With the influx of television cash in the NBA, players have seen massive paydays due to salary cap spikes. Every team wants an elite player, but unless you draft that player, you’re unlikely to lure them in free agency. Rather than waste the cap space (and opportunity) in the diminutive hopes of seducing an all-star, executives choose to pay the players they can reasonably acquire. It’s not settling or overpaying: it’s acting according to the market’s forces.
That’s how nominal big man Timofey Mozgov fetched $64 million on the open market. Remember when Tristan Thompson’s five year, $82 million contract was considered ludicrous?
About two-thirds of the NBA will have maximum contract space in the coming free agency period, so if the Thunder didn’t pay Adams or Oladipo, another team would be quite happy to do so.
Rather than betting at colossal odds on bringing in a free agent superstar, the Thunder have instead placed their confidence in their young core in the hopes that one–or both–can realize their considerable potential. The Thunder chose to lock down what they have, and I believe it was a no-brainer.
In Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook fires the cannons. A sizable investment has now been made in Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo to help steer the ship.
Every Tuesday, I’ll be posting a Thunder column right here on thefranchiseok.com. Feel free to hit me with suggestions, comments or story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mattravis on Twitter. Give me a follow while you’re at it!